‘Battlestar Galactica’ Series Avoids Cliches

by Shannon Baldo
Columnist

For the last column of the semester, I have decided to discuss one of my all-time favorite shows, one that I have watched several times over and that continues in my current trend of science fiction. Thus I present to you a show that I know you have heard of but probably haven’t seen: “Battlestar Galactica.”

“Battlestar Galactica” takes off from the 1978 show of the same name, a science-fiction soap opera mostly characterized by forced acting and clichéd plotlines. Yet when “Star Trek: The Next Generation” veteran Ronald D. Moore took over for the 2003 miniseries produced by SyFy, the show took on an all-new life.

Via phenomenal acting, intricate scripts and special effects to die for, the miniseries quickly became vastly successful, and SyFy consequently ordered four more seasons of the show with the same cast and crew. With Moore leading the way, each of the seasons keeps up the show’s quality, and the complexity of both the characters and the plotlines becomes far deeper with each episode.

“Battlestar Galactica” follows the fall of the human race at the hands of the Cylons, robotic creatures made by humans for the purpose of servitude who later gained control and overthrew their masters in a great war. Though the Cylons disappeared for many years, in the show’s original miniseries they return in full force, ambushing the humans and forcing them into flight. The crew aboard a neglected, dilapidated Battlestar ship, the “Galactica,” barely survives the Cylon attack and begins wandering through space in hopes of finding other survivors or, perhaps, a new home.

Though the series’ premise does smack a bit of traditional science-fiction invasion stories, “Battlestar Galactica” manages to change things around and explore the more fascinating, complex side of the story.

The first season, for instance, analyzes the ways in which the crew manages to survive in their extreme, miserable state. With water supplies running low, for example, they must begin to search for new sources and envision ways in which to steal them from the enemy, echoing a barbaric past and analyzing such a regression.

In the third season, the remnants of humanity do find a home on a habitable planet dubbed “New Caprica”; yet when the Cylons attempt to coexist there, prejudices and hostilities emerge, and the show suddenly provides a wonderful commentary on modern wars.

The themes explored in this show possess equal depth, and the incredible questions of philosophy explored throughout the series never fail to shock and amaze me. The Cylons, for example, have developed the technology to become human over the years, and they have thus developed thirteen models of individuals crafted on what they consider the epitome of human life. These include the beautiful, seductive woman (Tricia Helfer); the cynical older man (Dean Stockwell); the naïve, emotional girl (Grace Park); and even the slightly psychotic and curious traitor (Lucy Lawless).

Yet, with dozens of each of these models floating around during episodes and even appearing in the same scene, the show raises intricate questions about identity and the roles of nature and nurture. Furthermore, although each of these creatures looks human, they remain essentially artificial, introducing one of the most significant themes of the show: the meaning of humanity.

And, beyond the absolute phenomenon of the writing, “Battlestar Galactica” is actually executed well. The special effects alone have won multiple Emmy awards, with dazzling visuals that dwarf anything else on television.

The show’s cinematography also reaches wonderful heights, from dazzling shots of spaceships colliding in midair to the intimate close-up on a character with her child to the overarching angle on the flight deck. Plus, the actual cast of the show, each with incredible talent, creates an amazing ensemble including Edward James Olmos, Katee Sackhoff, Tahmoh Penikett, Jamie Bamber and Mary McDonnell.

Though the show’s premise focuses on conventional science fiction, “Battlestar Galactica” demonstrates some of the best of modern science fiction, and, even if you’ve heard of it, perhaps winter break is finally the time to start watching.

“Battlestar Galactica” consists of a miniseries and four full seasons. All are currently available on DVD.

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